Originally published in 'Business Superbrands 2002'. The book reviews the UK's strongest business-to-business brands as judged by the independent Business Superbrands Council.
The mobile communications market is barely 20 years old, but is nevertheless one of the most competitive sectors in modern business.
It is a sector where size matters, as customers look to the networks that can provide the best coverage and the most up to date range of services. This requires massive investment, both in terms of building the technological infrastructure needed to support a robust service, and also in marketing, as mobile communications is a heavily brand-driven business.
The business market has always been an essential focus for mobile telecom brands. In the 1980s, when the industry was born, business users were the primary target for mobile services. It was only in the second half of the 1990s that mobile phones began to become a mass consumer offering, causing a shift in the marketing emphasis of the main players.
But now the market is changing again, putting B2B marketing back in the spotlight. The shift from voice to voice and data services -- encompassing mobile internet and video -- is reshaping mobile communication. The business market is at the forefront of that revolution. Just as business people were the early adopters of mobile telephones in the 1980s, they are expected to be the quickest to benefit from relevant applications for mobile data in the new millennium.
The pace of change and growth in the mobile communications market is rapid. According to Key Note Research, the total value of the sector increased from £2.75bn to £6.86bn between 1997 and 2001 -- an increase of over 149.5%. During the same period, subscriber numbers increased from 7.1m to over 43m. In 1997, the UK cellular telephone networks carried a total of 6.8bn call minutes, which rose to over 39bn by March 2001.
Since its launch in 1994, Orange has become the UK's biggest mobile service operator, with over 12.2m active customers. It has also built itself into a major international brand, being the second biggest network in Europe in terms of footprint and boasting a total of 37m customers worldwide. Orange has succeeded in gaining overwhelming acceptance in markets as diverse as France, Israel and Switzerland. In doing so, Orange has proved to be a brand whose name, values and images can cross cultural and language boundaries.
Considering that its brand was created and built in the consumer market, Orange faces a big challenge in making itself relevant to the business world. In recent years, Orange has invested heavily in the business market, from the processes put in place to acquire and manage customers, through to a greater emphasis being placed on brand communications focused on business customers.
Orange has continued to develop innovative technology while seeking new and more effective ways to service its business clients' needs. Much of this has been achieved by learning from its success in the consumer market and ensuring it applies the same commitment to customers, account management and good service.
The enormity of the task facing Orange at launch is difficult to appreciate today, given the current popularity of mobile phones. Back in 1994, the UK mobile phone market was a confusing place for customers. Digital networks had just been introduced, but few people understood the benefits. Complex tariffs and high prices made cellular phones only attractive to business customers: users had to sign-up to a three-year contract, with high monthly rental fees, high call tariffs and with little flexibility over the type of services on offer.
Mobile phones were therefore the preserve of the rich and were often reviled by the rest of the population. The mobile phone market had many negative connotations and operators had failed to build trustworthy names for themselves.
The business sector had been dominated by Vodafone and BT Cellnet for 10 years, with One 2 One launching much later. It was already a crowded marketplace; the question was how to succeed as the fourth entrant.
It was clear that the last entrant would face an uphill task in differentiating itself. In May 1993 a team was formed to develop a set of values and a brand proposition that would both engage the customer emotionally and deliver tangible benefits. In order to succeed, it approached the cellular market from the viewpoint of the customer, rather than that of the network operator. Orange needed to stand out and be different from the rest of the market and to cut across consumer confusion.
On March 28 1994, the Microtel name was officially changed to Orange.
The founding principle of putting the customer first was the yardstick by which everything Orange did would be judged. It pioneered billing by the second, monthly subscription with inclusive minutes and free insurance with a 24-hour replacement service, all available through 24-hour customer service. Orange also introduced a 14-day money-back guarantee.
By the end of 1995, the Orange customer base had more than doubled to 785,000, compared with 379,000 at the end of 1994. Major shareholders at the time were Hutchison Whampoa with 48% and British Aerospace with 22%. In 1996, Orange plc made its first initial public offering with the shares being listed on the London and Nasdaq markets on April 2nd 1996. At flotation in London, Orange plc shares were priced at 20p. With a valuation of £2.4bn, Orange plc became the youngest company to enter the FTSE 100.
In July 1997, the company reached the milestone of 1m customers. Orange plc was named the best performing share in 1998, based on companies listed on the FTSE 100 throughout the year.
Having established a strong presence in the UK, Orange looked abroad for markets where it could begin its international expansion. Orange Communications SA was awarded a GSM 1800 licence in Switzerland in 1998.
Later that year, Mannesmann AG (the majority shareholder in the leading mobile operator in Germany) announced the acquisition of Orange plc. The offer was completed in February 2000, but Mannesmann itself was acquired by Vodafone, a deal approved by the European Commission subject to an undertaking from Vodafone to divest Orange plc. In August 2000, France Telecom acquired Orange plc from Vodafone for a total consideration of £25.1bn. Orange plc's wirefree(tm) interests were merged with the majority of those of France Telecom to form the new Orange SA group.
Right from inception Orange focused on building a leading-edge network, with the capacity and structure to grow and develop as both their customer demands and technology enhancements required. This has enabled Orange to offer a dual high-speed data strategy with High Speed Circuit Switched Data (HSCSD) and General Packet Radio Services (GPRS). Orange is the only UK network to offer HSCSD and its customers have been benefiting from the 28.8kbps speeds delivered by HSCSD since 2000.This has allowed it to establish a robust mobile data offering long before its competitors, who were waiting for the introduction of GPRS.
GPRS was made available to Orange customers at the end of 2001.The complementary nature of these technologies means that Orange customers can deploy the technology that best suits their business needs.
In the business market, Orange works with leading technology companies to provide the best bespoke business solutions for its customers. It has developed the Developers' Forum and the Endorsement Programme which bring innovations and partner products to market. For smaller businesses Orange has also launched the Business Specialist initiative to recognise carefully selected dealers who can offer support and solutions to the small business market.
Another of Orange's product offering which is ideally suited to the business user is its Answer Phone functionality, an intuitive business tool which allows fast-forwarding and rewinding through messages, saving and deleting, forwarding to groups or individuals and even the ability to record a message and send it to a whole team of people at the same time. The Orange Directory Enquiries service is also very advanced, allowing customers to be directly connected, and to receive the number as a text message so that they can save it on their phone.
In 2001, Orange announced its intention to be available to 1.5bn people by the end of 2005. The process began in May 2001, when Mobilix in Denmark became the first company in the Orange group to rebrand. In June 2001 Orange's mobile interests in France -- Itineris, Mobicarte and Ola -- were also rebranded Orange.
Orange is well recognised as a leader in consumer marketing. However, as it developed a competitive product offering and service for business customers, it started investing more heavily in B2B communications. Orange now regularly has business-targeted campaigns, mainly using outdoor media and the press, with a focus on business titles reaching decision-makers, such as the Financial Times, The Economist and Management Today.
Orange's first major B2B campaign was in July 1999, when it launched the Talk Business initiative. Focusing on Orange's network capability, roaming and service, the press and poster campaign echoed the brand's consumer advertising with imagery combined with intelligent copywriting targeted at business decision-makers. For instance, the line, "Promise the earth and deliver", accompanied a photograph of a cricket ball, and an image of a light bulb carried the copy, "A good idea works the whole world over".
In 2001 Orange launched a highly targeted heavyweight press campaign specifically aimed at the business user. 'Work Orange' challenged businesses to look at work in a new way and presented Orange as the champion of the new business culture, the people who can 'make it happen' for a business. The campaign focused on how Orange products and services help businesses. It carefully balanced the benefits businesses can gain from the flexibility and freedom of wirefree (tm) technology backed up by specific products and services -- thereby rooting the benefit in rational product attributes.
The media challenge in Orange's approach to the business sector was to reach high-level decision-makers in business as well as more typical IT managers. The campaign ran in the business press and also featured on selected poster sites at key London underground stations in the City. Online activity was used for both advertising and fulfilment; banners were highly targeted through the most credible business sites.
During development the word 'Orange' was selected as the best representation of the values of the brand -- dynamic, straightforward, refreshing, friendly and honest. Orange's brand vision at launch was of a wirefree future in which you call people not places, and where everyone benefits from the advances of technology, liberating us all from the constraints of yesterday's ways of doing things.